A sort of laboriously “hip,” teen-pitched re-interpretation of a literary classic, Virgin Territory is adapted and directed by David Leland from Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, and bills itself, weirdly, desperately, as “a freewheeling mix of Monty Python’s historical absurdity with American Pie‘s teen raunch.” In reality, this period piece comedy — packaged by executive producer Dino De Laurentiis and produced by his wife Martha — is an atonal mish-mash that star Hayden Christensen probably took on for the several scenes in which he gets to make out with various topless nuns (as shown below), in some weird dream fetish realization.
In the aftermath of the “Black Plague” in 14th century Florence, the city’s lusty young men and chaste maidens flee to the countryside. But for charming scoundrel Lorenzo di Lamberti (Christensen), the only woman that sets his heart ablaze is orphaned beauty Pampinea Anastagi (Mischa Barton), who is betrothed to an obsessed Russian nobleman, Count Dzerzhinsky (Matthew Rhys), but also being pursued by Gerbino de la Ratta (Tim Roth, playing the Rufus Sewell role), a conniving countryman and business associate of her late father who has vowed to take Pampinea’s virtue. With Gerbino trying to kill him, Lorenzo escapes to to countryside, where he feigns being deaf and mute in order to be taken in at the Sacred Sisters of the Blessed Heart convent. Naturally, these nuns turn out to be quite lusty, so they make Lorenzo their kept boy, and take turns satisfying themselves on/with him.
As Pampinea escapes to the countryside and Gerbino and Count Dzerzhinsky square off, Lorenzo’s adventures are intercut with another band of wayward travelers, including a guy whose chirpy, proper redheaded girlfriend (Rosalind Halstead) is making him wait until marriage to savor her carnal delights. (Think of him as the film’s Jason Biggs character.) Pampinea soon comes across Lorenzo, and things come to a head when he has a chance to confess his feelings to her, and eventually win her over in swashbuckling fashion.
Made in 2005 and screened last year at the Toronto Film Festival, the sumptuously costumed Virgin Territory has trouble connecting in large part because it
can never settle on a convincing tone. It partially desires to be a
twisted look at 14th century love and angsty sexual repression, but it’s staged, written and shot with an eye toward decidedly modern tropes, set-ups and visual flourishes — hence very straightforwardly presented nudity, characters falling face down in piles of feces, and a terrible, surf guitar-infused score from Ilan Eshkeri. The movie is also saddled with a strange, rib-nudging narration from a supporting character, painter Tindaro (Craig Parkinson), that is far less clever and essential a guide than director Leland clearly thinks.
Christensen and Barton — frequently bagged on by critics for their star turns in the Star Wars prequels and on the small screen in The O.C., respectively — are individually fine, but never really given the chance to generate quite as much lead-character heat as this movie needs to sustain its fallow passages. The air-quote wit here is pretty thin, which makes the whole thing feel like a time-warp episode of your average high school small screen serial, recast in period-piece fashion in Florence for sweeps, or a fourth season kick-off. On the upside, there is plenty of nakedness, but 15-year-olds no longer need faux-arty film rentals to glimpse such things, do they?
Virgin Territory comes housed in a regular plastic Amay case stored in a cardboard slipcase with alternate cover art, and is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, enhanced for 16×9 televisions, with a Dolby surround 5.1 audio track. A cover sticker touts the movie as being part of Anchor Bay’s new “Unzipped”
label, whatever that means (presumably films with copious nudity). A 13-minute behind-the-scenes featurette includes interviews with Christensen, Leland and cinematographer Ben Davis, but also leans far too heavily on long scene snippets for such a short production overview. In addition to the movie’s trailer, a preview of Rock of Love that starts automatically upon insertion of the DVD, and a three-minute spotlight of David
Walliams — the star of TV’s Little Britain, USA, who has a bit part here as a doofusy cart pusher who Lorenzo happens upon — there are about three-and-a-half minutes of material billed as “censored scenes of sexuality.” These are for the most part extended/alternate takes of material already in the movie, including a scene in which Kate Groombridge emerges from a river and showcases her landing strip. Though unbilled on the back cover, there’s also a scrollable picture gallery of Roberto Cavalli’s costume sketches. C- (Movie) C+ (Disc)